There was no mass exodus or police presence Sunday afternoon at a homeless camp near Hamilton Plaza on Dixie Highway. The people living in the area known as “The Hill” had been told they have to leave by month’s end or face prosecution.
A woman who did not want to give her name but said she works for a homeless ministry, said there were about 20 homeless people left at the encampment Sunday afternoon. There were several young men milling around the parking lot near the O’Reilly Auto Parts store and yelling could be heard from the camp on the other side of the railroad tracks.
“It just absolutely breaks my heart. I think what’s happening is some of them have taken it seriously, but they’ve been told before to leave,” she said. “I don’t think that the rest that are here are taking it seriously because the deadlines have come and gone so many times in the past.”
In August, CSX Transportation employees called the Hamilton Police Department for help for people in the homeless camp crossing the railroad tracks. In addition, property owners, store tenants and others began complaining about homeless in area as the population grew with warmer weather.
In the past few weeks, Butler County and a variety of service organizations offered resource fairs for the homeless near the tent camp. County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter said she believes the outreach was successful in getting people — at least those who wanted it — help with finding shelter, medical treatment and a job.
“Everyone who attended the last heath fair said, ‘I have a plan. I know I have to leave,’” Carpenter said.
Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit could not be reached for comment about a possible forced evacuation later Sunday or Monday, but he said recently: “We have communicated clearly to the people back there over the past few months, you are on private property and the private property owner wants you off.”
A sign posted by the city states: “Please know that anyone found on the property after September 30th will be subject to prosecution.”
In addition the notice states any belongings left on on the property after Sunday will be “subject to disposal.”
“If you’re here past the end of September, we’re going to have to take action,” Bucheit said.“That’s kind of the marching orders we’ve given them.”.
The woman from the homeless ministry said offering the services is a fine idea, and some of the campers have gotten Medicaid, food stamps and other help, but housing remains an issue. One woman she said has been on “The Hill” seven years.
“The promise for housing, there isn’t any. Take one of these abandoned office buildings or abandoned houses that the city owns and put them up in that for a minute,” she said. “There has to be rules, but there is nothing, they were promised they’d be relocated, well the ones that are working with the agencies still haven’t been relocated.”
William Crouter, a camp resident since April, said not all people are taking the notice to leave seriously.
“A lot of people are taking it as a joke,” he said. “Me personally, I think, well, you know, anything that gets this big and gets this much attention, especially with all the news stories, it is eventually going to get shut down.”
Crouter said he has lived on the streets off and on for about 14 years and he does have a job.
He became homeless after a series of bad breaks beginning as a teen and at one time was working three jobs and selling plasma to keep a roof over his head. The self-proclaimed drifter said he just got tired of the struggle to make ends meet.
Crouter said he doesn’t believe police will be on the property on Sunday.
“Honestly, I don’t think they are going to do anything Sunday. Monday is when they are going to be up here. They will give the people a chance to leave on their own without being forced out. And then on Monday they will be up here in full force,” he said.
Crouter said he will probably go back to crashing on friends’ couches, but most people in the camp will move farther up the hill or find another place in Hamilton to pitch their tent.